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Jinja Residents Demand Civilian Staff for Boat Ambulances :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Jinja Residents Demand Civilian Staff for Boat Ambulances

The boat ambulance was provided to largely evacuate patients from the Islands of Kisiima I, Kisiima II, Rwabitooke and other small islands scattered along parts of Lake Victoria in Jinja district. The boat will also support rescue operations of fishermen and other water transport users in Lake Victoria and River Nile respectively.
Some of the soldiers deployed to manage the boat ambulance.

Audio 3

Residents of Masese ward and the island areas of Kisima, in Jinja want civilian staff to manage the boat ambulance used to evacuate patients from island areas. They argue that they are easily approachable compared to the men in uniform designated for this service. 

The boat ambulance was provided to largely evacuate patients from the Islands of Kisiima I, Kisiima II, Rwabitooke and other small islands scattered along parts of Lake Victoria in Jinja district. The boat will also support rescue operations of fishermen and other water transport users in Lake Victoria and River Nile respectively. 

The residents say that they have endured enough cruelty from the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF soldiers during Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU operations aimed at controlling illegal fishing along Uganda’s major water bodies. They add that on that basis, it is inappropriate to hand them a project in the health sector. 

Speaking at the handover of the boat ambulance to both Jinja city and Jinja district authorities on Thursday, Sam Lwanga, the LCI chairperson of Masese I cell said that strengthening health services in hard-to-reach communities thrives more when coordinated by civilians.

“Our communities in hard-to-reach areas, are largely illiterate. Therefore, deploying soldiers to work in such communities will result in endless conflicts, just like it has been with the ongoing FPU operations,” he says.   

Rosette Nansamba, a resident of Rwabitooke island says that Ministry of Health officials should train civilians to operate the boat ambulance and equip them with the necessary skills for offering patient healthcare services. 

//Cue in; “government yaffe eno… 

Cue out…ekintu kyaffe.”//

Mary Wanyenya, a resident of Kisiima I island says that several islanders have visible scars of the wounds inflicted on them and psychological trauma stemming from tales of fatalities resulting from the ongoing FPU operations. She adds that much as the boat ambulance has been designated for safety and rescue services, handing it over to soldiers, resurrects grief among affected communities. 

Wanyenya argues that fresh torture wounds amongst members of the targeted communities will frustrate the execution of services if the boat ambulance is left in the hands of soldiers.

//Cue in; “amagye ggo… 

Cue out…navuga nga’bantu.”//

Maria Nkalubo, the Ministry's Principal Operations Officer in charge of Emergency Services said that the idea of boat ambulances was introduced by the former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga in 2019 when the Ministry tabled a request for funds to purchase ambulances. 

However, the Ministry had limited manpower briefs and has not trained enough coxswains and navigators, with the necessary expertise to manage boat ambulances. This, she adds, has prompted them to partner with both UPDF and Uganda Police Force-UPF, where such human resource is available. 

Nkalubo however, says that members of the armed forces are only deployed to train and mentor the civilian human resource workforce, which will over time be deployed to fully manage the boat ambulances. 

//Cue in; “currently we are… 

Cue out…the respective authorities.”//

She notes that the boat ambulances, coupled with all their fittings are expensive and that on top of offering mentorship to the civil workforce, UPDF will also offer timely security to the equipment and crew members during transportation from islands to the mainland.  

Nkalubo adds that much as medical specialists, doctors, midwives and nurses have been exclusively deployed to oversee the smooth operability of the over 14 boat ambulances distributed to different parts of the country, paramedics from project hosting communities have been trained, as backup staff to ensure quality patient care.

Meanwhile, Kadaga urged residents to embrace the boat ambulance services and tap into the advantages of timely healthcare, which have been extended to their community, as a means of promoting quality antenatal care and over time rescuing victims of water accidents.